Ep05: Under Pressure

Series I: Science of Survival

Jun 16, 2016
Outside Magazine

When you're stuck under water, escaping alive requires maintaining calm and making all the right choices.    Photo: piranka/iStock

When you’re stuck underwater in a submarine, the number of ways you can die is long and varied—crushing, burning, asphyxiation, exploding, the list goes on and on. Escaping alive requires maintaining calm and making all the right choices. Which makes it all the more surprising that one of the first known submarine survival stories involves the first-known undersea fistfight. 

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In the mid-19th century, Prussian carpenter Wilhelm Bauer built a submarine for the Prussian military with the idea of using it to secretly plant bombs on the undersides of Danish ships that were blockading a Russian harbor during a border dispute. His audacious creation, which resembled a giant toaster and was propelled by hand wheels despite weighing some 38 tons, worked exactly as designed and quickly spurred the Danes to retreat.

Then, naturally, Bauer and his crew had an accident at depth that tested both the crude engineering of the vessel and the men’s ability to overcome their fears and make the one bold move that would save their lives.

The “Science of Survival” is a joint project of Outside and PRX. Support for the series comes from the Arthur P. Sloan Foundation and its commitment to storytelling around STEM issues.

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